*Editorial Note: This content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuer. Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and may not have been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuer. This site may be compensated through a credit card issuer partnership.
This article was last updated Feb 18, 2015, but some terms and conditions may have changed or are no longer available. For the most accurate and up to date information please consult the terms and conditions found on the issuer website.
We all know emergencies can happen. They are usually unexpected, unavoidable and expensive. I don’t know about you, but the emergencies that have happened in my life have always come at the worst possible times. This is why it is important to build an emergency fund, but sometimes the extra cushion of cash just doesn’t cut it.
What to Look for in an Emergency Credit Card
Having a credit card on hand during an emergency can mean the difference between a truly unfortunate event and sailing smoothly through the crisis. Emergency credit cards aren’t like other forms of plastic; you’re not going to use them for everyday expenses, so you don’t need to focus on rewards and perks.
Here are some key features to keep in mind when searching for an emergency credit card:
- Low Interest-If an emergency happens, chances are that you’ll be responsible for paying off a large balance. By using a low interest credit card, or one that offers 0% for 12 months or more, you’ll save money in the long run by avoiding additional charges.
- No Annual Fee– You should never pay to carry your emergency credit card.
- High Credit Line– Having access to a high credit limit on your emergency credit card will give you more cushion to work with in the event of an emergency. Plus, this method will also help your credit utilization ratio.
- Quick Approval– Typically the only credit cards that guarantee an instant approval are those designed for rebuilding credit. In order to receive an instant approval decision on unsecured credit cards, you will need excellent credit. In other words, if an application needs to be reviewed before a decision can be made, that’s typically because the consumer’s credit is right on the border of approval and denial, and the bank needs to look closer at the credit file. However, even if you receive an instant approval, the credit card will still take 7-10 business days to arrive. Most emergencies can’t wait that long, so it’s better to have an emergency credit card before you need it.
- Additional Protections and Insurances– Most credit cards have additional benefits that many cardholders are unaware of. These benefits can bring extra protections and insurances that may come in handy in the event of an emergency.
Best Credit Cards for Emergencies
Chase Sapphire Reserve®: This card has a $450 annual fee and no intro period offers, but it does provide benefits for emergencies that may arise. You can be covered for medical services and transportation on up to $100,000 if you or a family member fall ill or are injured during a trip that requires evacuation. Other cardholder benefits include earning 3X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
Citi Simplicity® Card - No Late Fees Ever: This credit card is known for having the least amount of fees attached with it. It comes with no annual fee, and an intro APR of 0%* for 18 months on Purchases* and 0%* for 18 months on Balance Transfers*. The on-going APR is 15.74% - 25.74%* (Variable) based on creditworthiness. The extra-long intro rate makes the Citi Simplicity® Card - No Late Fees Ever a great option to use for major purchases.
Citi® Diamond Preferred® Card – 21 Month Balance Transfer Offer: This low interest and easy to use card would be a good choice if you need to for an emergency credit card. It features no annual fee and an intro APR of 0%* for 12 months on Purchases* and 0%* for 21 months on Balance Transfers*. The on-going APR is 14.74% - 24.74%* (Variable). This is a pretty basic credit card that does not come with any complicated terms and conditions or confusing fine print.
Discover it® Cash Back: The Discover it® Cash Back card comes with an intro APR of 0% for 14 months for both purchases and balance transfers, followed by an on-going interest rate of 13.49% - 24.49% Variable. This credit card comes with no annual fee, so it doesn’t cost you to carry. The Discover it® Cash Back will also help cardholders earn 5% cash back at different places each quarter like gas stations, grocery stores, restaurants, Amazon.com, or wholesale clubs up to the quarterly maximum each time you activate. 1% unlimited cash back automatically on all other purchases.
Maintaining Your Emergency Card
We feel it’s wise to maintain at least one credit card for emergency purchases only, which has a relatively large credit limit. Since you won’t be using your emergency credit card regularly, you want to make occasional small purchases with the credit card to keep the account open and active.
It’s also a good idea to set up a PIN in case you need quick access to cash. Don’t wait until an emergency happens to request a PIN because banks need time to create and send you your PIN.
* Editorial Note: This content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuer. Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuer. This site may be compensated through the credit card issuer Affiliate Program.
*The content in this article is accurate at the publishing date, and may be subject to changes per the card issuer.